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Softball team kicks off season in Florida

February 28, 2014

Junior Abbie Morris pitches to an opponent.
Junior Abbie Morris pitches to an opponent. The Falcons face stiff competition as their season begins. (Kathy M. Helgeson/University Communication)

The UW-River Falls softball team will be fielding a squad with a much different look than it had last year.

“Ten of the 18 are first year players. Out of the nine starting positions, only three are returning,” Head Coach Faye Perkins said.

The team returns a handful of core players, though, including third baseman Sarah Bohlen, the only senior on the squad. Three of the team’s pitchers, plus its catcher Amber O’Connell, will also be returning this season.

“Sarah Bohlen, our lone senior, has done a great job being a leader on the team. This week we actually sat down as a team and came up with season goals. We are committed to working our butts off every day to be a top contender in the WIAC and eventually make it to regionals and nationals,” junior pitcher Brooke Lauritzen said. “We have very high expectations for ourselves but being as close of a team as we are, we can do anything and we will all give 110 percent the whole season.”

Perkins said that the team’s infield should be its strength this season as it combines returning starters, as well as returning players who will be getting their first chance to start. The outfield, on the other hand, is a bit more of a question mark.

“I’m pretty confident in the infield this year. At first and second I have two sophomores starting, who last year we groomed for coming in this year,” Perkins said. “In the outfield we had three seniors that graduated and we were really preparing Hannah [Zurn] to step in this year. The outfield will have an opportunity to prove themselves.”

Overall, though, Perkins said that the defense should be the strength of this team. However, with 10 of the 18 players being first year players, hitting is another area where Perkins is not quite sure how the team will perform.

“In college there is a lot more movement and speed on the ball. So hitting-wise it will be interesting to see how [the first year players] transition to that,” Perkins said. “That’s the big unknown, is how the bats will hold up. I’m looking for some people to step up.”

The team got its first chance to find out how these new pieces performed on Wednesday, Feb. 26, when it faced off against St. Mary’s University in a double header at the Rochester Dome. The Falcons won their first game 6-1 but lost the second 2-4.

The Falcons have not been playing in domes for too many years, but Perkins said that the games played indoors have a significant impact on the team’s season. Before the dome games, the Falcons would not see any game action until their trip to Florida. Now they see live action before making the trip.

The level of competition in both the dome games as well as the Florida game should help prepare the Falcons for their tough conference schedule.

“We’ve worked really hard as a team the last month and we’re ready to take on whatever comes our way, including the five nationally ranked teams we play before our spring break Florida trip is over,” Lauritzen said.

The team will face two ranked opponents in the Rochester Dome. It will play a double header against No. 11 St. Thomas University, and one game against No. 7 Luther College.

When UWRF makes the trip to Florida over spring break, the schedule does not get any easier. The Falcons will face off against No. 20 Rowan University (located in New Jersey), No. 23 Babson College (located in Massachusetts), and No. 25 North Central College (located in Illinois).

“It’s a tough schedule to start, but all of that will prepare us for the conference games. Our conference will be extremely tough this year, as it always is,” Perkins said.

The Falcons next games will be a double header at 9:30 a.m., on Saturday, March 1, against St. Thomas, and another doubleheader the next day at 8:30 a.m., against Buena Vista University, which is located in IA. Both of the match-ups will be at the Rochester Dome.